The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Labour Party Conference Activity Update

Issues around rail in the North West were the topic of last night’s Greater Manchester Chamber/ Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority Fringe Event at Manchester Town Hall.

Entitled “Sustaining the Economy Through Rail” the panel included Dr Brian Sloan, the Chamber’s Head of Business and Economic Policy, Steve Butcher, Chief Operating Officer, Northern Rail, Tony Lloyd MP and Willie Bain MP Shadow Minister for Transport and was hosted by none other than Andy Crane.

Among the issues identified as key transport priorities for the area included the problems around the Northern Hub, high speed rail links, as well as calls for more rolling stock and the need for more frequent services to cover outlying areas.

Ahead of October’s Comprehensive Spending Review Mr Bain emphasised the need to continue to impress on government the vital role transport infrastructure investment plays in regional economic development.

A round up of all of our activity at the Party Conferences will be in the October edition of the Chamber magazine 53 Degrees

Monday, 27 September 2010

Labour Party Conference Update

By Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy

The steps Labour will need to take to gain back the support of business was the topic of British Chambers of Commerce’s Lunchtime Fringe Event.

The Rt. Hon Pat McFadden kicked off the session by outlining the need for Labour to adopt a sensible approach towards its opposition to issues including cuts in government spending. He also highlighted the party’s strong support of enterprise whilst in government, particularly in relation to skills development to support wealth creation.

Continued pressure to encourage increased bank lending, sensible questioning of planned spending cuts and continued investment in skills were all highlighted as key areas that the opposition should continue to press the new coalition government for to ensure the best possible conditions for businesses.

Keep an eye on our blog for a review of tonight’s joint event with the Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority and remember you find out about all of activity at the Party conferences at

Labour Party Fringe Event Update

By Dr Brian Sloan - Head of Business and Economic Policy

Members raised their concerns about the planning system and skills levels of current school leavers at the first of our Labour Fringe events held at the Chamber this morning.

The event which included Hazel Blears MP, and Ruairidh Jackson from the Co-operative Group on the panel, looked the role that the opposition can play in helping local areas recover.

Delegates agreed that skills funding had been overly complex and that there was a need to have a more centralised funding body.

In addition, the meeting identified the potential problems a localised agenda may cause for planning and infrastructure development.

On the issue of city region governance delegates welcomed attempts to devolve more powers to Greater Manchester, due to a proven track record in successful public-private sector working.

Keep an eye out for our postings on other Labour Party Fringes we are involved in later in the day. Don't forget you can find out full information on all of our fringe events at the Party conferences at

Friday, 24 September 2010

Friday Guest Blog

Nick Kettles, Marketing Director, CTI (The Coaches Training Institute), UK

In any position, whether managerial or a supportive role, it's not always easy to be authentic and say it as it is. Indeed, often the response to interpersonal conflict, whether caused by a clash over short-term goals, workplace values, or the status of employee relationships, is to ignore it until it’s too late.

However, viewed from the perspective of a company’s productivity, the elimination of communication barriers can help develop greater trust and the discretionary effort such relationships foster.

A common misconception of the value of Coaching in this area is that it’s just another tool for marshalling employees to toe the line. Used this way, coaching might achieve short term peace, but the opportunity for conflict to be a catalyst for change will be lost.

Facing up to what needs to be said, is just part of the equation. Unlocking new perspectives which might transform difficult situations, requires a shift not just in what we say, but how we see ourselves and others as well. By offering an orientation towards others which celebrates and embraces the natural creativity and resourcefulness in each individual, the Co-Active ® coaching model elevates conversations beyond simply defending our actions, or wanting to be the one who is right.

Consider the difference in a conversation, when our assumption about the other is not that they are limited, but instead hungry to learn, grow and become more effective as a human being?

As long as both parties are willing to take responsibility for their part in any misunderstanding, there then exists the potential for being curious about what the other really values in each situation. Even if we find we don’t share their values in quite the same way, giving them permission to share what they care about, without fear of being judged, creates the spaciousness in which common ground can be identified and an expanded resolution can arise.

It’s true that the art of having powerful conversations is not always mastered overnight, and yet even a simple shift in perspective like this can make a big difference in the way employees and employers relate to one another. When the alternative is the status quo, it behoves us to find the right relationship tools which realize the human potential of all our employees.

CTI offer coach training courses for executives, managers and new career seekers, in Manchester and London, throughout the year. For their forthcoming two and a half day Introduction to Co-Active Coaching at Salford Quays, Manchester, Nov 5-7, CTI UK is offering the course at 50 per cent off when two book together.

For more information call Judy Rich on 0845 299 8199, or

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Hospitality & Tourism Sector Event

The guest speaker at the next Hospitality & Tourism Sector event will be Paul Simpson, Managing Director of Visit Manchester. The event will start at 6.30pm on October 5 at Room Restaurant, 81 King Street, Manchester, M2 4AH. The cost is £15 including VAT for Chamber members and non-members.

This will be a fantastic opportunity to mix and socialise with some key decision makers in the Sector and enjoy a drink or two in this fabulous host venue.

Book securely online by clicking here

Labour Party Conference Fringe Event

New Statesman is hosting a fringe event at next week's Labour Party Conference. Big Brands: Key to Regeneration And Enterprise? will take place at 8.30am on Monday 27th September at Starbucks Coffee, St Ann's Square, Manchester.

Speakers include Stephen Timms MP, Shadow Financial Secretray to The Treasury; Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce; Professor Cathy Parker of Manchester Metropolitan University; Chris Ward, author of "Coffice"; Susan Hinchcliffe, Regeneration and Partnerships Manager at Business in The Community.

NB There is no need to book a place on the above event: simply turn up at the venue on the day. However places are limited and people will be turned away if the venue is full.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Chamber Activity and Events at Party Conferences

By Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Policy

It’s party conference time yet again and this year Manchester hosts the Labour Party Conference, with the Lib Dems in Liverpool and the Conservatives in Birmingham. The next few weeks promise to be very interesting indeed. In the mainly blue corner (with Lib Dem yellow tints) the coalition parties will no doubt face some internal issues as well as defending their economic policy against ever increasing hostility. Meanwhile, over in the red corner the Labour party will elect a new leader and we’ll have fun and games as shadow ministers start to jockey for position. So for political devotees very interesting stuff but what about the real world and what about business?

It is absolutely vital that we don’t lose sight of some significant challenges ahead as the spending review gets ever closer; we still await decisions around Local Enterprise Partnerships and the impending VAT increase. We still see problems about businesses being able to easily recruit skilled staff, train employees as well as get greater access to finance.

As you hopefully will know by now, here at the Chamber we are always on the case with one or more of the above issues at any one time, either talking to businesses about them or representing their views to key decision makers. Last week for example, I met with Danny Alexander MP the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to update him on key transport infrastructure projects facing the chop and ensuring he understood their importance.

Whilst these individual meetings are useful, the Conference season offers a huge range of opportunities for intensive bursts of activity making sure that we play as big a role as possible in making sure we stand up for business and influence future decisions. Having key politicians right on your doorstep helps as well.

This year we will be undertaking activity at all 3 main conferences. I will be speaking at several fringe meetings as well as the Chamber hosting events with partners. Full details can be found on our website at:

However it’s no use just having meetings we really need the ammo to back up what we’re saying. So now, more than ever your views do matter. The current government is ready to listen and act, the opposition is ready to pounce if it doesn’t. Take advantage of what we can do for you and play a part in shaping your future.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Friday Guest Blog - Claire Mclauchlin from Weber Shandwick

By Claire McLauchlin

Public Affairs Consultant at Weber Shandwick

I must admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ plan, in fact the term having a dog and barking yourself sprung to mind. However, Cameron has said that the concept would be a ‘big advance in people power’ and a change in the way we do things is inevitable following the recent financial fallout, so I am willing to be proven wrong.

It’s not that I don’t think there is a place for social enterprise, charities and voluntary initiatives working together to deliver public services – there undoubtedly is, if it is a proper co-operative of opinions and actions. It has to be organised and executed properly and not just seen as a way to cut costs – lets not forget the introduction of PSO’s, which not only reduced the number of trained police officers on the streets but often caused more problems than they solved.

The concept of ‘Big Society’ isn’t actually a new one – Margaret Thatcher always wanted more individual action and less state intervention. Also, in 1985 the Prince of Wales Community Venture began in Sunderland, the Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council was aimed at encouraging a team of citizens to constantly strive and offer excellent services to within the community.

So the idea isn’t anything new, yet we haven’t actually seen much detail on how this is all going to work. We have been introduced to some initiatives including ‘Your Square Mile’ – an invitation for us to ‘make changes in the square mile where you live or work’. Also there are schemes like the ‘Big Society Day’ and the ‘Big Society Bank’ where the community can have first refusal on any state asset being sold off. And of course, no campaign would be complete without the obligatory advocate’s panel, in this case an MBE’s network to champion local heroes and citizen’s initiatives.

Perhaps my years in PR have jaded me but I can’t help but feel cynical that there are a lot of campaign concepts going on but not an awful lot of depth.
Cameron said: “I want other forward-thinking, entrepreneurial, community-minded people and neighbourhoods in our country to come forward and ask for the same freedoms, the same support too. If you’ve got an idea to make life better, if you want to improve your local area, don’t just think about it – tell us what you want to do and we will try and give you the tools to make this happen.”

How will the Government deliver the necessary tools with limited, if any, offer of grants or funding?

In Manchester at least, it seems that the responsibility will inevitably land on the shoulders of local businesses but not much is actually being said on that. With the demise of so many social enterprises, Manchester businesses will certainly play a key role in our ‘Big Society.’ But what are the benefits and incentives?

If the Government opens up and allows businesses to work with them, then it will be a good opportunity for self-regulation and co-regulation to define government and civil society agreements – but this would have to be with Manchester’s leading business people.

Our successful regional businesses can also play a key role in helping social entrepreneurs grow, this can happen through mentoring relationships or by serving as non-executive directors.

Also key to success will be the city’s industries contributing to our ‘Big Society’ by lending their expertise in specific areas and entering long-term partnerships with a view to building up social enterprises.

Committing employees’ time and expertise to help make the ‘Big Society’ a success is a significant undertaking, but I’m sure the Manchester business community would also stand to benefit from enhanced employee skills and stronger relationships within the city. It may also encourage a sense of community within the office and nourish more of a team building attitude, where we work together both inside and outside of the work place.

Of course it does beg the question, ‘who is picking-up the tab for this?’ Not only is the pressure on for private sector businesses to drag us out of the recession, but now we will turn to them to deliver our public services and provide economic leadership within our communities.

Business Link and the North West Development Agency were once vital resources for Manchester businesses and would have undoubtedly proved valuable in the success of our ‘Big Society’. However their demise is another example of the contradictory position the Government has taken on cutting back regional organisations only to depend on them to deliver our public services.

Cameron also said, “We’ve got to get rid of the centralized bureaucracy that wastes money and undermines morale.” Our business community can contribute massively to this and in improving Manchester’s services; however, their role must be crystal clear with shared responsibility with central Government.

I am open to the idea of businesses and the community working together to provide some sort of collective responsibility but I can’t help but be sceptical that the ‘Big Society’ concept is a little vague to be successful.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Unemployment Claimant Count Rises

Unemployment Claimant Count Rises

The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in Greater Manchester has risen. Last month 74,987 claimed the benefit compared with 74,325 the month before.
Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “Today’s Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant figures paint a mixed picture across Greater Manchester. Most boroughs saw a rise but there were falls in Stockport, Tameside and Wigan.

“Coming on the back of the fall last month, this small rise is worrying but was something that we warned about as no doubt once spending cuts begin to bite the figures will increase.
“There are still positive signs for businesses to recruit but the opening up and easing of access to get people back into work needs looking at urgently.
“Many businesses are still put off by some of the complexities and legislative burden involved in recruitment.”

Friday, 10 September 2010

Friday Guest Blog

Malcolm Evans Founding Partner at corporate culture specialists The Cultureship Practice.

There’s a huge amount of talk going on about the emerging composition of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – and it is right that there should be this level of interest.

There are huge regional disparities of wealth and economic development, the country as a whole is limping through challenging economic times, and we face endless global pressures on Britain’s core commercial viability and status.

Politicians of all hues generally agree that the State should direct energy and resources into stimulating and supporting enterprise, although some businesspeople (I’d count myself in this category) might see an over-optimism within all governments on the limits of what public sector intervention can ultimately achieve.

I am privileged to work in MMU’s Innospace incubator amongst numerous ambitious younger businesses.

From this perspective, I wish to see this manifesto put clearly to the fore:

1. Simple, transparent enterprise foundation grants, giving start-ups a real boost.
2. Everything possible done to see more funds getting through to enterprise, not being swallowed up in support agency staff and bureaucracy costs.
3. A removal of enterprise support duplication across multiple bodies.
4. A huge cull of inexperienced business advisor mentors and a vigorous effort to attract pro-bono mentoring support from experienced businesspeople.
5. Simple to access R&D funds.
6. Cheap incubator/expansion space.
7. Genuine academic/commercial collaboration.
8. Valuing business participation as highly, if not higher, than the support bureaucracy.
9. An extension and development of intern and apprenticeship incentives.
10. A major review on access to capital - a process advised also by savvy and experienced entrepreneurs, not just bankers and venture capitalists

The Cultureship Practice:

Chamber Diary 2011

Chamber Diary 2011 - The Chamber is compiling the data for the Member Directory section of our 2011 Diary. Members are asked to check that the details which appeared in the 2010 diary are still correct by clicking here. If your details are wrong, please let us know by one of the following methods:
  • completing the online form linked here

  • downloading and completing the Fax Back form

  • changing your details on Chamber Online (entering the Directory Code into your 'Company Description' field)

  • calling the membership team on 0845 602 9469

ONLY REPLY IF YOUR DETAILS ARE INCORECT. The deadline for amendments is Wednesday 22nd September. If you are a new member you can check what details we have for you by calling the membership team or going on Chamber Online (details above).

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Add Your Voice to the Chamber Economic Survey

By Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey is currently underway for Quarter 3.

The survey is widely recognised as one of the most reliable indicators of economic conditions. It is highly regarded by the Bank of England and other policymakers, yet it takes just a couple of minutes to complete by simply completing tick boxes.

By increasing the number of responses in each local area the survey can be used to inform both national and local decision makers of the conditions being encountered by our businesses, ensuring the correct policy response is made.

This is an important part of the Chamber’s activity and we would very much appreciate it if you could spare a little time to complete the survey online at . All responses are anonymous and the results of this quarter’s survey will be released on 1st October and will be available on the Chamber’s website.